Global warming has been a subject of intense debate in political and social spheres. On the one hand, there are scientists and environmentalists who are trying their level best to raise awareness about the issue, and on the other there is a strong lobby of government and corporations, who are reluctant to take concrete steps to curb the menace of climate change. While some may think of global warming as a myth, the reality is that we are already seeing its effects.
The Effects of Global Warming
A study by a group of British climatologists has come to find that global warming will lead to massive droughts in the next 100 years. It may cover half of the total land area which will lead to large-scale migration. The Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) has found that the global percentage of dry areas has increased by 1.74% between 1950 and 2008. If the temperature on the surface of the earth keeps getting warmer at the current rate, it is very likely to pose numerous problems.
With the rise in the temperature, viruses which thrive only in tropical climate can move to more temperate climate. Climate change has already led to an increase in the number of epidemics according to the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs (KIHASA), which states that "In extreme cases, a 1 degree rise in temperature resulted in as much as a 6 percent increase in the spread of diseases. Overall, high temperatures are seemingly responsible for more brisk activities of viruses."
The thought that global warming can cause both droughts and floods can seem to be counterintuitive to some people, but the fact is that climate change has altered the weather pattern around the world. In the past couple of years itself, we have seen signs of how nature may have started the 'payback' proceedings. Pakistan witnessed one of the deadliest flash floods in May 2010, which killed about 1400 people and left another 3.5 million homeless.
35 people were reported to have died and property worth $30 billion was destroyed in Queensland flash floods in December 2010. In January 2011, more than a thousand people died because of flash floods in Saudi Arabia. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already warned that the frequency of flash floods would increase in this century.
MELTING OF POLAR ICE CAPS
Global warming has led to the melting of the polar ice caps in the Arctic and the Antarctic regions. The temperatures in these areas have risen about two to three times as compared to the average temperatures on earth. The polar ice caps have an important role in maintaining the environmental balance. If these were to melt, islands which are below sea level may be in danger. Cities like Shanghai and the island nation of Maldives would be at the highest risk in such a scenario.
With the increase in the temperatures due to global warming, the concentration of smog in the atmosphere will increase. This increase in the level of smog will ultimately lead to illness and death. Smog will also intensify the severity of heat waves, which can take a further toll on us. This report was drafted by the Environmental Protection Agency, and it highlighted the consequences that global warming can have on us if concrete steps are not taken to curb it.
Over the past decade or so, a lot of research has been conducted to ascertain whether global warming leads to an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires. Wildfires, which soak up roughly $1.5 billion dollars from America's coffers, could become prolonged and intensive because of the effects of climate change. Wildfires cause destruction of life and property every year and release greenhouse gases, which further increases the temperature of the earth.
A study published by Britain's Royal Society warned that global warming may increase the chances of a volcanic eruption. However, there is no credible proof yet on the effect that global warming has on volcanic eruptions. Therefore, it may be too early to add volcanic eruptions to the ever-growing list of the consequences of global warming. But, one thing that no one can deny is the fact that the steps that have been taken to fight global warming have been inadequate. The failure of the Copenhagen Summit last year once again showed that there is a lack of urgency on the part of the leaders of the developed nations to fight global warming. Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of each one of us to raise awareness on this issue and persuade people at the helm of affairs to take concrete steps in this direction.